NEONNOAH (NN), a Dallas-based Indie Pop/Rock band, found their start in the dorm room of SAGU alumni Esteban Flores and Conner Mckinzie. After releasing their sophomore album in September of 2016, NN is making waves in the Dallas music scene with music inspired by faith and authenticity. The consistent goal of NN has been to make “sincere” music that is personally applicable while remaining “timeless” and true to the band as artists.
The band’s sound is characterized by synth driven indie rock tunes adorned with catchy lead lines and lyrical depth. The synth/rock feel of NN is reminiscent of bands like Switchfoot, Kings Kaleidoscope and The City Harmonic. The band members are individually influenced by different artists but have begun to find their niche in their last album “Bella Vita." According to Flores, one of the tracks on the album, “Civil War,” is an ode to the band's pursuit of excellence in their craft.
What started as a just-for-fun venture between roommates has grown in scope and musicianship. Jacob Norris rounds out the original team on the synth. Getting their name from an inside joke about Norris' dancing skills, the band enjoys their unique friendship and creative collaborations. The three band mates now tour and play live shows promoting their newest album.
We had the opportunity to sit down and talk to Esteban Flores and Conner McKinzie of NEONNOAH to discuss their time at SAGU and current musical journey:
Q: What’s your origin story?
Conner: We had been friends forever. We started writing music pretty much since we met, just for fun. We were even writing when we lived in Collins. After a few months of writing for fun, we were just leaving a friend’s show from back home, and we were like, “We could do that. We write music.” So, we started a band.
Q: How did your time at SAGU impact you/what were your fondest memories?
Esteban: Relationships, definitely relationships. And chops, we were always playing and practicing and leading worship.
Conner: I think the biggest impact was relationships. I think that SAGU allowed us to organically start a band, just because we got so close while we were there. I think my favorite memory was when I had kinda just met Esteban and was in his room and I found this alarm clock. I thought it’d be funny to set it to 3:00 A.M., so I put it by his bed and it woke him up that night. I didn’t think he knew it was me, so I thought I was off the hook. But, a couple weeks later I woke up in the middle of the night to this loud alarm clock sound and couldn’t find where it was coming from. He had like thrown the alarm in my ceiling so I had to go search for it! I was thinking about that the other day. Plus, our first show in the Dallas area was at SAGU. They let us play in the student building. That was so cool because our SAGU friends were the first people to hear us play live, ever. Cool memory.
Q: What advice would you give to aspiring musicians?
Both: Do it.
Esteban: Don’t wait for someone to teach you how. Don’t wait for someone to give you a license to do it. Just do it. I’ve heard so many people say “I’d love to do this….if...” Anybody who’s succeeded in anything did it. They didn’t wait for people to tell them to do it. All of these people that anyone looks up to, the one deciding factor is that they did it, and the people who wanted to do it still just want to do it.
Conner: You can do two things at once. I was able to be in a band and graduate, you know? I’ve wanted to be in a band my whole life, and I was in some in high-school, but it was always just small stuff. This time I just kinda went for it.
Q: How have your goals and dreams changed since college?
Esteban: They haven’t. I’ve always wanted to do music.
Conner: I always wanted to do music as well. I just didn’t know how that was going to play out. Going into it I wanted to do worship ministry and always had a passion for music. I didn’t realize it was going to be completely different than I thought.
Q: What role does faith play in your lives and your music?
Esteban: We first believe that faith is us. It’s all of us. It’s not faith, and music, it’s just faith. They aren’t separate. We don’t set out to write Christian songs, we set out to write songs. I think where people mess up is they set out to write a “Christian song” or a “non-christian” song, whereas we believe these things and if you believe these things then they’re going to permeate all aspects of our art. We’re passionate about helping people. If you’re going to do it, do it well. And do it with passion, in every essence. That means being nice, loving people, caring, being honest and having genuine conversations. We get to meet people who don’t share our views and get to talk about the Lord in a way they haven’t seen before.
Conner: I think as artists you write about what you’re passionate about. That comes with a lot of different things. Love, faith, trials, and different things that go on in life. It’d be hard to avoid writing about faith, just because it plays such a big part in our lives. We don’t want to be just a normal band. I hope when people meet us or interact with us they can tell something different about the band.
Q: What has been the most rewarding part of working in the music industry?
Esteban: Seeing people enjoy it. Someone singing your lyrics that you’ve never met before. And meeting your heroes and not just being fans, but being their peers.
Q: What’s the vision behind NEONNOAH?
Esteban: We want to be a timeless band. Excellence in everything we do. We want every aspect of us to be great. Our clothing, our merchandising, our music, our writing, our film and photography. We don’t want to compare ourselves to the people around us, we want to compare ourselves to the people we want to be. You don’t get by with “just ok” nowadays.
Conner: We don’t want to just be a trendy band. I’ve thought about this recently, because of the internet, if I have kids someday I don’t want them to hear our music and say “wow that’s so funny.” We want our music to stay up to date. We’re not going to wait to get signed to a label to start caring about stuff. We want to be the best in everything we do.
Q: If there was one thing you wanted people to know about NEONNOAH what would it be?
Esteban: You’re allowed to be different. And you’re allowed to be honest. Authenticity. Be authentic to who you are, don’t just try to be this next worship pastor or preacher. Don’t look for celebrity, but honesty. Authenticity is such a huge thing.
Conner: It’s important to be open to change, and to be open to let God use you in different ways. A lot of people grow up in church like me and they limit themselves because they think they can only do a handful of things. But, being open to seeing how God can use your own desires is really important. I just hope that God continues using us to do big things.